Soldier Field (formerly Municipal Grant Park Stadium) is located on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, Illinois, in the Near South Side. It is home to the NFL's Chicago Bears. It reopened on September 29, 2003 after a complete rebuild (the second in the stadium's history).
With the current stadium capacity of 61,500, Soldier Field became the smallest stadium in the NFL when the Indianapolis Colts moved out of the RCA Dome and into Lucas Oil Stadium in 2008.
In its earliest configuration, Soldier Field was capable of seating nearly 74,000 spectators and was in the shape of a U. Additional seating could be added along the interior field, upper promenades and on the large, open field and terrace beyond the north endzone, bringing the seating capacity to over 100,000. The largest crowd for any event at Soldier Field is difficult to determine. Please see "Notable Events" below for specific events.
Early years with the Chicago Bears
Although used as the site for many sporting events and exhibitions, it was not until September 1971 that the Chicago Bears first made it their home. They previously played at Wrigley Field, best known as the home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Seating capacity was reduced to 57,000 by building a grandstand in the open end of the U shape. This moved the field closer to both ends at the expense of seating capacity. The goal of this renovation was to move the fans closer to the field. Beginning in 1978, the plank seating was replaced by individual seats with backs and armrests. By 1994, additional seating was added bringing the capacity to 66,944.
AstroTurf replaced the grass in 1971, when the Bears moved to the stadium. Grass returned for the 1988 football season.
Origin of name and design model
The field serves as a memorial to American soldiers who had died in wars, hence its name. It was designed in 1919 and completed in the 1920s. It officially opened on October 9, 1924, the 53rd anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, as Municipal Grant Park Stadium, changing its name to Soldier Field on November 11, 1925. Its formal dedication as Soldier Field was on Saturday, November 27, 1926, during the 29th annual playing of the Army vs Navy game. Its design is modelled on the Greco-Roman architectural tradition, with doric columns rising above the stands. However, after being rebuilt, the modern stands now dwarf the columns.
|Sculpture of a sailor and his family, gazing eastward, over Lake Michigan|
The field features many memorials to past Bears heroes. It is said that it has twice as many memorials than any other stadium.
In 2001, the Chicago Park District, which owns the structure, faced substantial criticism from the Chicago Tribune when it announced plans to alter the stadium. Proponents, however, argued the renovation was direly needed citing aging and cramped facilities.
|View of east side and marina|
Reaction to the renovation was mixed. The New York Times ranked the facility as one of the five best new buildings of 2003, while the Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin dubbed it the "Eyesore on the Lake Shore."
On September 23, 2004, as a result of the 2003 renovation, a 10-member federal advisory committee unanimously recommended that Soldier Field be delisted as a National Historic Landmark. The recommendation to delist was prepared by Carol Ahlgren, architectural historian at the National Park Service's Midwest Regional Office in Omaha, Nebraska. Ahlgren was quoted in Preservation Online as stating that "if we had let this stand, I believe it would have lowered the standard of National Historic Landmarks throughout the country," and, "If we want to keep the integrity of the program, let alone the landmarks, we really had no other recourse." The stadium lost the Landmark designation on February 17, 2006, primarily due to the extent of the renovations.
During the renovation, Soldier Field received new light emitting diode (LED) video technology from Daktronics. Included in the installation was a video display measuring approximately 23 feet (7.0 m) high by 82 feet (25 m) wide and ribbon displays mounted on the fascia that measured more than 321 feet (98 m) in length.
The current design of the stadium, with the Greek style columns being the primary remnant of the older facility, has prompted some fans to refer to the stadium as the "Spaceship on Soldier Field". This is because of how the new stadium bowl rises above and hangs over the columns, which was largely not the case in the older design. Also with the renovation, the front row 50-yard line seats are now only 55 feet away from the sidelines. This was the shortest distance of all NFL stadiums, until New Meadowlands Stadium opened in 2010, with a distance of 46 feet.
The closest Chicago 'L' station to Soldier Field is the Roosevelt/Wabash station on the Orange, Green and Red lines. The Chicago Transit Authority also operates the #128 Soldier Field Express bus route to the stadium from Ogilvie Transportation Center and Union Station. There are also two Metra stations close by—the Museum Campus/11th Street station on the Metra Electric and South Shore lines, and 18th Street, which is only on the Metra Electric Line. Pace also provides access from the Northwest, West and Southwest suburbs to the stadium with four express routes from Schaumburg, Lombard, Bolingbrook, Burr Ridge, Palos Heights and Oak Lawn.
|Aerial view of the stadium|
Soldier Field (then known as Grant Park Municipal Stadium) hosted its first football game on October 4, 1924 between Louisville Male High School and Chicago Austin High. Louisville Male won 26–0. (Chicago Tribune, October 2, 1924)
Soldier Field was the site of the former College All-Star Game, an exhibition between the last year's NFL champion (or, in its final years, Super Bowl champion) and a team of collegiate all-star players of the previous season prior to their reporting to the training camps of their new professional teams. This game was discontinued after the 1976 game because of the risk of injury to the all-stars in what was essentially a meaningless exhibition, and the lack of competitiveness of the game, which in its waning years was almost always won by the professional champions. The final game in 1976 was halted in the third quarter when a torrential thunderstorm broke out and play was never resumed.
Four NFC Championship Games have been held at Soldier Field.
The 1985 NFC Championship Game took place in Soldier Field, where the Bears defeated the Los Angeles Rams 24–0.
The 1988 NFC Championship Game took place here, where the Bears lost to eventual Super Bowl XXIII champions San Francisco 49ers 28–3.
The 2006 NFC Championship Game granted the Bears their second trip to the Super Bowl, the first in 21 years, with a 39–14 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
The 2010 NFC Championship Game matched the Bears against the Green Bay Packers, where the Bears were defeated 21-14.
Other Bears playoff games at Soldier Field:
1985 NFC Divisional Playoff: Bears 21, New York Giants 0
1986 NFC Divisional Playoff: Washington Redskins 27, Bears 13
1987 NFC Divisional Playoff: Washington 21, Bears 17
1988 NFC Divisional Playoff: Bears 20, Philadelphia Eagles 12 (this game is best remembered as the Fog Bowl, where dense fog covered the stadium, reducing visibility down to 15–20 yards.)
1990 NFC Wild Card: Bears 16, New Orleans Saints 6
1991 NFC Wild Card: Dallas Cowboys 17, Bears 13
2001 NFC Divisional Playoff: Philadelphia 33, Bears 19. This was also the last home game before the renovations took place in 2002.
2005 NFC Divisional Playoff: Carolina Panthers 29, Bears 21
2006 NFC Divisional Playoff: Bears 27, Seattle Seahawks 24 (OT)
2010 NFC Divisional Playoff: Bears 35, Seattle Seahawks 24
Over 100,000 spectators attended the 1926 Army/Navy Game at Soldier Field. This game would decide the national championship, as Navy entered undefeated and Army had lost only to Notre Dame. For once, the game lived up to all of the pre-game hoop-la, and even though the game ended in a 21-21 tie, Navy was awarded the national championship.
The Long Count Fight, the second heavyweight championship bout between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney, was held at Soldier Field on September 22, 1927.
The all-time collegiate attendance record of 123,000 plus was established November 26, 1927, as Notre Dame beat the University of Southern California 7-6.
Austin beats Leo to win 1937 Prep Bowl; highest attendance ever in soldier field estimated at over 120,000.
Glenn "Fireball" Roberts won the only NASCAR Grand National race held at Soldier Field's short track which ran across the old configuration, in 1956.
The Chicago Freedom Movement, led by Martin Luther King, held a rally at Soldier Field on July 10, 1966. As many as 60,000 people came to hear Dr. King as well as Mahalia Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Peter Paul and Mary.
|Configured for U2's 360° Tour, which opened in North America at Soldier Field in September 2009|
The Rolling Stones - July 8, 1978, September 11–12, 1994, September 23 & 25, 1997, September 10, 2005 and October 11, 2006
Soldier Field itself was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - August 9, 1985.
Madonna - July 31, 1987, with Level 42
Paul McCartney - July 29, 1990
The Grateful Dead - June 22, 1991, June 25–26, 1992, June 17–19, 1993, with Sting, July 23–24, 1994 and July 8–9, 1995
1994 FIFA World Cup Venue of all matches scheduled to play in Chicago, including the opening match between Germany and Bolivia on June 17, 1994.
Pink Floyd - July 12, 1994
Pearl Jam - July 11, 1995
Dave Matthews Band - June 29–30, 2000 and July 6–7, 2001
U2 - June 27–29, 1997, with Rage Against the Machine, September 12–13, 2009 and July 5, 2011
'N Sync - June 16–17, 2001
Bon Jovi - July 21, 2006, with Nickelback & July 30–31, 2010
On September 1, 2007, Northern Illinois University faced the University of Iowa in the first Division I College Football game at Soldier Field since renovations. The game is the second game of a home and home series between the two programs, although NIU's campus is located in DeKalb, 69 miles (111 km) to the west of Soldier Field on Interstate 88. With attendance of 61,500, a Mid-American Conference record for a home football game was set. Iowa won 16–3.
Soldier Field appears in the Clint Eastwood-directed movie Flags of Our Fathers, when the survivors of the Iwo Jima flag-raising reenact it for a patriotic rally.
The Eagles - June 19, 2010, with The Dixie Chicks
1994 FIFA World Cup matches
Date Time (CDT) Team #1 Res. Team #2 Round Spectators
Soldier Field in popular culture
In the Marvel comics event "Siege", Soldier Field is destroyed mid-game during a battle between the Asgardian hero Volstagg and the U-Foes, as part of a Norman Osborn plot to recreate the Stamford Incident (see Civil War (comics), to give him due cause to invade Asgard (Marvel Comics).